The Scoop on Soy: What You Need to Know
There’s so much information swirling around out there about which foods are good and bad for us—like do the soy health benefits outweigh the negative rumors we’ve heard? Our health coaches are here to help employees navigate their questions about diet, meal planning, and sustainable eating habits—in addition to other advice on specific health challenges, spanning topics from insomnia and stress to diabetes and heart disease. Click here or fill out our form at the end of this article to contact our team about our health coaching services and other wellness programming.
When you think about foods high in protein, meats, eggs and dairy typically come to mind first. It’s about time we shine some spotlight on the plant-based protein soy as well! Soybeans and soy products provide high-quality, plant-based protein along with phytochemicals and fiber for added health benefits.
Soy Health Benefits
Soy is a strong replacement for animal proteins. Compared to animal proteins, soy is lower in both saturated fat and cholesterol, while still packing a punch with 10 grams of protein in each ounce of soybeans. Just like animal proteins, soy is considered a complete protein, meaning it contains all the amino acids that your body needs from food. Because soy is a plant protein, it also provides added benefits from phytochemicals, a type of antioxidant shown to help lower cholesterol and improve heart health.
Soy and Cancer
You may have heard from media sources that soy products, specifically one of their phytochemicals called phytoestrogens, can increase breast cancer risk. However, existing research on soy intake and breast cancer does not support this statement. In fact, the exact opposite has been found: high consumption of soy food products has been shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer! It’s important to note that the research has only been completed with soy food products, not soy protein powder. Since there is not enough research on the long-term effects of soy protein powder, it is advised to only use soy protein powders in moderation.
Cooking with Soy
If you’ve never cooked with soy before, it can be intimidating to know how to start! Let’s discuss three common soy foods and how to cook them.
- Edamame are soybeans harvested early while they are still green and soft. You can boil or steam them. They can be served solo with light salt or spices, or tossed into dishes like stir-fries, sautés, or sheet pan dinners.
- Soy milk is made from soaking finely ground soybeans in water. Look for varieties fortified with calcium and vitamin D for a nutritional profile more similar to cow’s milk. Soy milk can be used in place of cow’s milk as a beverage or in cooking.
- Tofu is soy milk that has been curdled and compressed into a solid block. It is purchased packed in water and will need to be drained and pressed between paper towels to remove water before seasoning and cooking. Tofu does not have any strong flavors and will soak up the flavor of anything it’s cooked in, so it’s recommended to use marinades or spices when cooking with it. Tofu is incredibly versatile and can be grilled, steamed, baked, or fried.